The Latin Quarter exudes a unique Bohemian allure with its atmospheric Parisian cafés, eccentric booksellers, and fashionable student hangouts. One of the most interesting neighborhoods in all of Paris, thanks to its lively and soulful atmosphere.
The Université de Paris was established in the Latin Quarter in the Middle Ages. The Latin-speaking scholars who studied at La Sorbonne College at the University of Paris gave the neighborhood its name. La Sorbonne and the famous Collège de France are only two of the many surviving universities in this ancient neighborhood.
The Latin Quarter spans the 5th and 6th arrondissements on the Left Bank of Paris, roughly limited by Boulevard Saint-Michel, Boulevard Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and the Seine River.
The Latin Quarter is mainly a medieval labyrinth of twisting, narrow alleys and stone-paved lanes with a few peaceful, secluded squares tucked away in the back. The Boulevard Saint-Michel is the only modern street in this otherwise historic neighborhood.
It’s to the benefit of visitors to get disoriented and confused in the pedestrian zones. Ancient churches, gorgeous riverfront regions, the foundations of a Roman amphitheater, and unique locally owned businesses and genuine French bistros are just a few of the many hidden treasures waiting to be discovered.
Cultural activities and the vibrant nightlife found in the Latin Quarter are also highly regarded. Casual dining establishments, movie theaters, museums, art galleries, and performing arts venues exist in the neighborhood. The open-air booksellers along the Seine and the restaurants on Rue Mouffetard are two of the area’s most popular attractions.
Top 15 Attractions in Paris’s Latin Quarter
Our guide to the best attractions of the Paris Latin Quarter will help you plan your trip to this fascinating neighborhood.
- The Sorbonne University
- Musée National du Moyen-Âge (The Cluny Museum)
- Boulevard Saint-Michel
- Rue Mouffetard
- The Seine River
- Shakespeare & Company
- Jardin des Plantes
- Grande Mosquée de Paris
- Arènes de Lutèce
- Arab World Institute
- Place Saint-Michel
- Eglise Saint-Étienne-du-Mont
- Eglise Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre
- Natural History Museum (Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle)
1. The Sorbonne University
This famous university, commonly referred to as “La Sorbonne,” was established in 1253 as a college for financially disadvantaged theology students. During Napoleon’s rule, the college grew into a prestigious theological institution and was elevated to the rank of a State university.
Over 50,000 students now enroll at the university each year. Besides being a university and accepting new students each year, Sorbonne University is one of the Latin Quarter’s top attractions, which visitors are allowed to explore.
The Cardinal de Richelieu commissioned the construction of many of Sorbonne University’s lecture halls and libraries in the 17th century. In the nineteenth century, as enrollment rose, the institution began yet another massive construction project.
The Grand Amphithéâtre, the main lecture hall, seats 935 people and features the renowned artwork Le Bois Sacré (The Sacred Grove) by Neoclassical painter Puvis de Chavannes, which can be seen above the platform.
Baroque in style, the chapel was constructed in the Sorbonne courtyard between 1635 and 1642, and its dome was painted by Philippe de Champaigne.
2. Musée National du Moyen-Âge (The Cluny Museum)
The Cluny Museum is the best place to learn about the breadth and depth of medieval art, which is also one of the Latin Quarter’s best attractions. The Hôtel des Abbés de Cluny dates back to the 15th century and was once the Parisian townhouse for the Burgundian Benedictine abbey of Cluny. Today, it serves as the National Museum of the Middle Ages.
The location of the building just so happens to be on the site of a recently excavated Roman bathhouse. Museum visitors can see Roman and Gallic sculptures from the first century AD in a room housed in the ruins of the former Frigidarium (cold baths).
The medieval tapestries in the Cluny Museum are the reason the museum is so well-known. The Flemish Offrande du Coeur, a tender expression of love woven in the 15th century, is the oldest of the tapestries.
The Dame à la Licorne tapestry collection is the museum’s crown jewel. These tapestries from the late 15th and early 16th centuries were woven in the popular “millefleurs” (or “thousand flowers”) style of the time. Birds, rabbits, monkeys, and even amiable dogs are weaved into elaborate floral patterns.
The Panthéon is, without a doubt, one of the most popular attractions in the Latin Quarter of Paris. The Panthéon is a mausoleum that houses the tombs of France’s most notable inhabitants, and it sits atop the slightly raised Montagne Sainte-Geneviève (Saint-Geneviève hilltop), overlooking the Latin Quarter.
On the roof of the porch supported by Corinthian columns is inscribed the words “Aux Grands Hommes La Patrie Reconnaissante,” which translates to “to the great men who are recognized by their country.”
All of the Panthéon’s halls are dedicated to celebrating the legacies of France’s greatest thinkers, doers, and leaders from every field of study.
Since 1995, the Panthéon has become the final resting place for six of France’s most celebrated female citizens, including Marie Curie, winner of a Nobel Prize in physics.
Tourists can ascend the dome of the Panthéon (a total of 200 steps) to take in sweeping vistas of the city of Paris below. From April through October, visitors can enjoy stunning 360-degree panoramic views from the dome’s colonnaded balcony. The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, and Notre Dame Cathedral can all be seen from here.
4. Boulevard Saint-Michel
The Latin Quarter has a contemporary vibe thanks to the lively Place Saint-Michel and the nearby Boulevard Saint-Michel. The Boulevard Saint-Michel, a large modern thoroughfare created by Haussmann in the 19th century, stands in stark contrast to the narrow medieval alleyways that are densely packed throughout most of the neighborhood. The boutiques and cafés on this strip cater to the artistic tastes of the local college population.
The Place Saint-Michel may be found at the end of Boulevard Saint-Michel, just off the Seine. The Latin Quarter’s true beating heart is found in this lively public space, which makes it to be one of the Latin Quarter’s top attractions among tourists and locals alike. Day and night, the square is bustling with commuters, students, and tourists making their way to and from the adjoining Métro station.
5. Rue Mouffetard
One of the oldest and most atmospheric alleys in Paris, the Rue Mouffetard is located on the gently sloping Montagne Sainte-Geneviève hill. This student hangout is known simply as “La Mouffe,” and it is filled with unique stores, old homes dating back to the 16th and 18th centuries, and cozy eateries. On the weekends, the street comes alive with the sounds of the various musicians that perform for the area’s many restaurants.
Starting close to the Panthéon, Rue Mouffetard leads to the charming Place de la Contrescarpe with plenty of outdoor seating options. The Rue Mouffetard is one of the most famous market streets in all of Paris, famous for its assortment of bakeries, cheese shops, and other specialty food establishments. Also available are the colorful fresh fruits and vegetables sold at morning-only traditional market stands.
6. The Seine River
Enjoying a meal at a péniche is a typical Parisian experience. Péniches, which are attractive tiny docked boats with enticing eateries, dot the Seine River’s banks. There is a unique dining option along the river that is sometimes overlooked by visitors: eateries on floating barges.
Having a picnic or just simply strolling by the Sein River is one of the best attractions in Paris’s Latin Quarter.
7. Shakespeare & Company
This English bookstore, founded in 1919 by American Sylvia Beach, is a Parisian institution. She used it as a boarding house and bookstore for young authors. Ernest Hemingway talked about it in his autobiography, A Moveable Feast. During the Nazi occupation of Paris, the bookstore was forced to close due to the war. In 1951, another young American named George Whitman reopened the shop in a new location in the Latin Quarter and breathed fresh life into it.
Sylvia Beach Whitman, Whitman’s daughter, is the current leader. She keeps it running much as it always has: as a bohemian gathering for writers and book lovers. Make some time to explore the crowded bookcases and stop by the cafe next door, as it is one of the best attractions in the Latin Quarter.
8. Jardin des Plantes
The Royal Garden of Medicinal Plants, established by King Louis XIII in the 17th century, is the inspiration for today’s Jardin des Plantes. This expansive patch of greenery in the middle of Paris is a wonderful place to unwind and reconnect with nature. The garden is truly one of the top attractions in the Latin Quarter of Paris.
There are 11 separate gardens inside the 26-hectare Jardin des Plantes, in addition to a number of greenhouses. Garden of the School of Botany (Jardin de l’École de Botanique) has an extraordinary variety of flowers and plants organized in an educational style to help viewers understand biodiversity.
Highlights of Jardin des Plantes include the romantic Jardin de Roses, the Jardin des Pivoines (Peony Garden), the Jardin Alpin featuring mountain plants, and the Jardin de l’École de Botanique.
9. Grande Mosquée de Paris
The Grande Mosquée de Paris is an Islamic cultural haven located in the Jardin des Plantes in the heart of the famous Latin Quarter. Built between 1922 and 1926, the Grand Mosque of Paris is a newer addition to the area, and it shortly became one of the Latin Quarter’s top attractions. The mosque is popular with the neighborhood’s Muslims, yet it also draws in curious sightseers looking for something out of the ordinary.
The Grand Mosque’s interior is a breathtaking example of Hispano-Moorish design. The prayer hall has beautiful carpets, and the hammam is decorated like a traditional North African bath with mosaic tiles. The Alhambra Palace in Granada served as inspiration for the courtyard’s emerald-tiled decorations and finely ornamented arches.
10. Arènes de Lutèce
The Arènes de Lutèce, the remnants of an old Roman amphitheater, were discovered in 1869 and are located in a quiet green area close to the Jardin des Plantes. Entering this tranquil area is like discovering a priceless artifact that has been concealed for two millennia.
The Arènes de Lutèce was constructed between the 1st and the second centuries AD, but following a barbarian invasion in 285, it was turned into a stone quarry. The amphitheater only had 36 tiers of seating, yet it could fit an audience of up to 17,000 people. This was essentially the whole population of the city back in ancient times.
The remains show how massive the old amphitheater was and how it was used for events like gladiator battles and animal fights. The elliptical arena was about the same size as the Roman Colosseum, measuring 56 meters in length and 48 meters in width.
Located in the heart of modern-day Paris, this amphitheater and the Roman baths at the Musée de Cluny are all that remains of the ancient Roman city of Lutetia, and it now is one of Latin Quarter’s best attractions.
11. Arab World Institute
After a long day of sightseeing, the Arab World Institute is a great location to unwind. Get there by heading north from the Jardin des Plantes via the Quai Saint-Bernard. Designed by Jean Nouvel, the building’s exterior is covered in 240 moucharabiehs that act like diaphragms to adjust to changing light levels.
In 1980, the institute was founded to disseminate information about Arab and Muslim cultures. The interior’s white marble terrace is a nod to Arab culture. The Islamic Art Museum features works spanning the 9th to the 21st centuries on all 7 floors of this institute, making it one of the Latin Quarter’s top attractions.
12. Place Saint-Michel
Leaving the “cité” island and walking a little distance from the cathedral, you’ll come onto another of the Latin Quarter’s top attractions: the Saint-Michel fountain, which depicts Saint Michel defeating the dragon.
Baron Hausmann commissioned the construction of this magnificent fountain in 1860 to serve as the finishing touch on his revamped Boulevard Saint-Michel. David, the architect, was influenced by the Trevis and Marie de Medici fountains in the Luxembourg Gardens. Tourists can choose to follow local customs and throw a coin into the Place Saint-Michel fountain while making a wish.
13. Eglise Saint-Étienne-du-Mont
The Late Gothic and Renaissance Eglise Saint-Étienne-du-Mont was constructed in the 15th century and is now known as a National Historic Landmark and one of the Latin Quarter’s best attractions. The building styles have progressed over time. The nave’s vaulting is an outstanding example of Gothic architecture, while the church’s round pillars are reminiscent of Renaissance style.
The church’s rood-screen, which is made of marble and includes a spiral stairway at each end, has become famous. The stained glass windows showing the Apocalypse and the Parable of the Marriage Feast date from the 15th to the 16th century and are also remarkable.
The philosopher Blaise Pascal and the famous dramatist Jean Racine are both interred in Our Lady Chapel, and their epitaphs can be found above the church’s main entrance. A stone from Saint Genevieve’s tomb is rumored to be housed in the church as well.
The Eglise Saint-Étienne-du-Mont welcomes visitors (free of charge) every day of the week (except Mondays) and is located immediately beyond the Panthéon. There are options for guided tours. The church hosts multiple Sunday masses in addition to daily weekday masses.
14. Eglise Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre
The Eglise Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, a fascinating medieval church constructed in the High Gothic style between the 12th and the middle of the 13th century and located next to the Square René Viviani Park in the 5th arrondissement, is a popular attraction in Latin Quarter of Paris.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, the bell of this cathedral was used to signal the start of classes and elect the University’s Rector. The church can be reached on foot from the nearby Place Saint-Michel and the Shakespeare & Company bookstore.
An icon-decorated screen hung in 1901 is the focal point of the church’s interior at Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre. Near the Eglise Saint-Sevérin, on the street of Rue Galande, there is a beautiful vantage point of the church’s design.
15. Natural History Museum (Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle)
The Jardin des Plantes is home to the ménagerie, as well as the Gallery of Mineralogy (Galerie de Mineralogie et de Geologie), the Gallery of Paleontology (birds, dinosaurs, prehistoric animals), and the Grande Gallery of Evolution, all of which are part of the larger Natural History Museum (Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle).
Take the kids to this group of museums to learn as they interact with a wide variety of animals. Spend at least three hours here, and don’t miss the interactive science museum aimed squarely at kids, the Galeries des Enfants. This museum is surely one of the Latin Quarter’s top attractions.
The name “Le Quartier Latin” comes from the Latin language that was used and taught at universities in the neighborhood. Le Quartier has a rich history as a hub of intellectual activity, with a large student population and a front-row seat to life in the ancient and medieval city.
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